Trails less traveled, June 3, 2020

Hikers travel along Bristlecone Trail near Fern Trail in Big Bear. The trails are part of the south shore trail system used by hikers and mountain bikers.

Yes, you can hike in Big Bear and avoid the crowds. With more than 200 miles of trails in the MountainTop District of the San Bernardino National Forest and Big Bear Valley, there is no reason to encounter a lot of people while on your trek.

But how do you find these trails less traveled? The Big Bear Trails program, part of the Southern California Mountains Foundation, is a top resource on Big Bear trails. Nonmotorized trail coordinator Bennett Rossell said one of his

favorite trails is Camp Creek Trail. “It’s a sleeper,” Rossell says.

Located just east of Snow Valley, the Camp Creek Trail is what Rossell calls a fisherman’s trail. The trail starts directly off State Route 18 at mile marker 18 SBD 38.00. It starts at Forest Road 2N97 and descends gradually for about a quarter mile until the trailhead. The trail itself is a single track over relatively flat terrain for the first half mile. It winds through a grove of young Sequoia trees, white fir, sugar and Jeffery pines. From there the trail starts a steep descent into a canyon with views of Snow Valley to the west and the San Bernardino peaks to the southeast. The Camp Creek Trail leads to Bear Creek and on to Siberia Creek with connection to the Champion Lodgepole Pine for the adventurous.

“It’s a fabulous trail,” Rossell said. “It’s more shaded; it’s truly a way to escape it all.”

Rossell said the Sugarloaf National Scenic Trail on the other end of Big Bear Valley is another trail that doesn’t get too much foot traffic.

“Then on the other side of the mountain is the Wildhorse Trail,” Rossell said. Both trails are accessible off State Route 38.

For beginners, Rossell said the Pacific Crest Trail between Holcomb Valley Road East (the dump road) to Cushenberry Grade on State Route 18 is a good trail.

“It’s fantastic,” Rossell said. “It’s got great views. You get major bang for your buck.”

Phil Hamilton, one of the founding members of the Big Bear Valley Trails Foundation, the precursor to Big Bear Trails program, also suggests hiking the PCT.

“The PCT isn’t getting a lot of use right now,” Hamilton said. “There are all kinds of section hikes you can do.”

Hamilton said the Eye of God, while a short trail east of Baldwin Lake, is another trail that doesn’t get a lot of foot traffic. But one of his favorite hikes is in the Moonridge area off Bow Canyon and Ridgecrest roads. It doesn’t have a name.

“There is a trailhead there at the end of Ridgecrest,” Hamilton says. “If you go off to the right you head toward the east side of Bear (Mountain). To the left, there is a gigantic loop. It’s very fun.”

Other trails Hamilton recommends include the Grout Bay Trail near Fawnskin, Bristlecone Trail and Lower Fern Trail are accessible from  Clubview Drive.

“There’s a gate on Clubview Drive near the golf course where you can make your way onto Bristlecone,” Hamilton said. “It’s a fun trail.”

Outside the Forest Service trails, hikers are encouraged to try the Happy Hills Trail near Big Bear Lake City Hall. The trailhead is located west of City Hall and links to other trails in the area.

“Generally (Happy Hills) does not get a lot of traction,” Hamilton says. “The first part of the trail is asphalt and wheelchairs can go there.”

For more information about trails in Big Bear Valley, visit or, or stop by the Big Bear Visitors Center at 40824 Big Bear Blvd., Big Bear Lake.

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